HE TRADED A TROWEL FOR A ROD & REEL
He grew up in rural Nebraska where he had been interested in fishing as far back as he can remember. His father died when he was very young, and he found himself fishing and hunting on his own by the time he was 8. He grew up, got married, and learned a trade. He still fished when he could. Denny Brauer was a bricklayer supporting a young family when his life took a sharp turn. At a jobsite, one of his fellow workers let him borrow a copy of Bassmaster magazine loaded with stories of guys who made bass fishing their living, which caused Denny to contemplate the possibilities- get paid to catch bass or spend each day lining up rows of bricks. Very few folks knew the competitive fire that burned inside Denny, so it took them by surprise when he picked up and moved his family to put himself in the thick of the competitive bass fishing world.
From that beginning, Denny Brauer weighed in nearly 9,000 pounds of bass in competition, finishing in the Top 10 an impressive 79 times and winning 17 derbies, including the mother of all, the 1998 Bassmaster Classic. He recorded wins in the 1987 Super Invitational on Kentucky Lake, the 1992 Megabucks on Guntersville, and the 1993 Super Stars on the Illinois River. He competed in 21 Classics, finishing in the Top 10 in eight of them. In addition to B.A.S.S. events, Brauer fished seven FLW Tour seasons, qualifying for five Forrest Wood Cups, and adding another $250K to his $2.5M of B.A.S.S. career earnings. The same year that he won the Classic he also won the FLW Tour Angler of the Year award. He ended his time on the FLW Tour in 2003.
Brauer’s bread and butter is pitchin’ and flippin’, and these skills resulted in the majority of his winnings. He had a few uncles who would let him tag along when they went fishing, but when it came to real skills he was pretty much self-taught. During those years he plied the banks but in high school, a shop project found him totally refurbishing a sunken boat he had found. That boat was heavy so when he got his first aluminum boat, it opened up a whole new world. He started fishing with the Blue Valley Bass Club.
Denny was able to save enough money to buy a Ranger bass boat. In 1978 he qualified to go to the state tournament at Merritt Reservoir and actually won it, which was his ticket to the B.A.S.S. nationals. In April 1980, B.A.S.S. had scheduled a derby on Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri, which Denny decided to enter. He ended up finishing 20th, but more importantly, Ranger Boats took notice and decided to sponsor him for a few more tournaments. One thing led to another, and he and the family made the move to Missouri, where he started to guide and pursue fishing for a living. They bought a house on the lake and guiding allowed him to fish about eight tournaments a year.
Brauer’s big break came in 1984 when he won his first Bassmaster event, a derby on Lake Sam Rayburn. The win came at a time when ESPN was starting to televise some events, which created more endorsement opportunities. He was still in a learning mode in all aspects of the sport. Brauer learned by reading everything he could lay his hands on, and then trying it out on Lake of the Ozarks and Truman reservoir. These lakes had countless boat docks which led him to become a proficient jig flipper. He became more familiar with his boat, his electronics, and his fishing tackle to the point where things on the water became second nature. As he came down the learning curve, good things started to happen beginning with the winning the 1985 US BASS Angler of the Year and continuing with the 1987 B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year, which led to Denny being the first pro angler to appear on Late Night with David Letterman.
The wins and Top 10’s were coming along over the next decade leading up to what turned out to be his crowning achievement, winning the 1998 Bassmaster Classic on High Rock Lake near Greensboro, N. C. He also has won an FLW Angler of the Year which, when combined with the Classic win led to General Mills making him the first bass pro to appear on a Wheaties box. Brauer was inducted as part of the inaugural class of the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame.
Fishing has taken a toll on his back and after struggling in his last tournaments, he retired from the Elite Series B.A.S.S. tournaments in 2012. He was diagnosed with a rare virus that cost him half his heart and lung capacity, but Brauer’s passion for the sport has had a lot to do with returning him to better health. The family moved from Missouri to the shores of Lake Amistad in southern Texas. Many years after finishing his FLW career, he continues to compete in occasional Major League Fishing events, mostly in Texas, and in 2014 he won a Toyota Series tournament on Toledo Bend.